Christ the King, Palm Coast, FL ~ Pastor Jay Zahn ~ Mark 14:55-65 ~ Wednesday, March 11, 2020
A man who was an avowed atheist was enjoying a swim in the ocean when out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of a dorsal fin, headed right for him. He began to swim wildly toward the beach but the fin drew closer and closer. Finally in desperation he cried out, “Dear God in heaven, help me!” All of the sudden a bright light shown down from heaven, it was as if time was standing still, and a the voice of God spoke, “I thought you were an atheist and didn’t believe in me, yet you want me to help you?” Well the atheist did some quick thinking and replied, “You are right God I don’t believe in you and so I’m not really asking help for myself I’m just asking that you will make that shark that is chasing me a Christian.”
God responded, “Your petition is granted.” At which point the shark rose up out of the waters, folded his fins and prayed, “I thank you O Lord for this meal I am about to receive.”
Like this atheist and his prayer, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day are desperate. Similar to this atheist and his prayer, the hearts of these religious leaders are fully exposed. Though they see the Truth but they refuse to submit themselves to him. They prefer to worship their own ideas about what they want God and relationship with him to be like, arrogantly thinking they can outsmart God and use his own truth to manipulate the Son of God into accomplish their self-serving objective. Whether you believe the truth or not, the truth always triumphs in the end.
Sometimes that victory doesn’t come with a lot of fanfare, just simple silence. Verse 61 reports that Jesus while on trial kept silent and didn’t answer the religious leaders with their many accusations, their many leading questions! Why not? He understands the legal order. None of what’s happening here is legal. This trial is a sham, a fraud. The verdict had been determined before the first witness had even been called. Think about it! First of all, there is no crime. Second of all, there are no credible witnesses. Thirdly, it is the middle of the night, to cover up what is happening. Fourthly, this “trial” isn’t being held in a court. Fifthly, all of these authorities who are so concerned about Jesus and his supposed violation of the law, are, in the way they try Jesus, violating every principle of justice. What they are doing is illegal from the beginning to the end in every possible way.
So why do they do it? Once an African chief happened to visit a mission station. Hanging outside the missionary’s hut on a tree was a little mirror. The chief happened to look into the mirror and saw his reflection, complete with terrifying paint and threatening features. He gazed at his own frightening countenance and responded in horror, exclaiming, “Who is that horrible-looking person inside that tree?”
“Oh,” the missionary said, “it is not in the tree. The glass is reflecting your own face.”
The tribal chief would not believe it until he held the mirror in his hand. He said, “I must have the glass. How much will you sell it for?”
“Oh,” said the missionary, “I don’t want to sell it.”
But the chief begged until he agreed. So the missionary named a price and the chief took the mirror. He promptly threw it down, breaking it to pieces, exclaiming, “I will never have it making faces at me again.”
In effect, this is what the religious establishment was doing to Jesus. Though they had put Jesus on the hot seat in their attempt to legally get rid of him, it was really Jesus who had unmasked their lying hearts, leaving their motives utterly and uncomfortably exposed. Now they want to get rid of feeling bad about themselves and their actions, not with a repentant change to their hearts and lives, mind you, but by getting rid of the One who brought the truth to light about them and surfaced these uncomfortable guilty feelings in their consciences.
Despite their wicked, self-serving agenda, yes even now God accomplishes his plans through them in spite of themselves. The high priest, Caiaphas, asks the key question for tonight. “Are you the Messiah, the son of the blessed one?” This was a common word to describe God the Father in the Old Testament.
Of all the questions that had been asked of Jesus in this trial, this is the first legitimate question. This is not a “What did you do?” question, this is “Who are you?” “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the blessed One?” It is a legitimate question. It does not call for self-incrimination but merely a question of identity, one that is simple enough for Jesus to answer. Though Jesus knows how these leaders will turn his answer against him, the question is important enough he answers anyway.
“I am,” Jesus said, "and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." Not only does Jesus answer affirmatively (I am), He did so by using a title that is uniquely divine (I am that I am, Exodus 3:14). He also said He was equal with God, sitting in the position of authority at God’s right hand as a member of the godhead. And finally, he said, “You will see me coming back with all my power and glory.” For those who make the claim that Jesus never said He was God, this exchange causes them real heartburn. Because that’s exactly what Jesus is saying here and he does so “on record.”
The Sanhedrin Court heart it loud and clear … and condemned him for it! “The high priest tore his clothes. ‘Why do we need any more witnesses?’ he asked. ‘You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?’ They all condemned him as worthy of death” (vv. 63-64). It was unanimous. The high priest was compelled to tear his garments if he heard blasphemy. It was to be an automatic response. But the real problem in the courtroom isn’t that Jesus spoke blasphemously, falsely claiming to be the Son of God, it was that the Jewish leaders didn’t believe the truth!
You see the truth here isn’t some bare, cold principle. It is a person. It’s Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One. He is the Truth! So when Jesus testifies truthfully about himself, he is also exposing the sinful motives of their hearts and brought them face-to-face to see and feel the guilt of their unbelief. They didn’t like it!
What about you? When Jesus exposes the sinful motives in your heart, how do you respond to the truth, to him? When Jesus shows you what it really means to love and what he demonstrates is so much greater than the kind of love you have been showing him and others, what do you do with the truth, with him? When Jesus unmasks hypocrisy in your life, the ways in which your living has been more about giving a holy show for others to see rather than having a holy heart that truly cares about others and their needs as deeply as you care about your own, what do you do with that uncomfortable feeling about where your life is out of alignment with the truth, with him? When Jesus reveals those areas where your claims to the faith have really been more about helping yourself than they have been about genuine love for the Lord, how do you react to the truth, to him?
As powerful as all of those questions are, even more compelling is the question: When Jesus sees any/all of these things in you, how does he respond to you? The same he way he does toward those who spit on him, mocked him, fist punched him, in the courtroom that night. He stands and silently takes the brutal blows, the scorn, the mockery, the indignity that sin and unbelief delivers just as Isaiah prophesied he would: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth…for the transgressions of my people he was stricken.” (Isaiah 53:7, 8b)
Why? For you! To rescue you from the lies you like to believe by saving you with the Truth. Yes, He gives you the Truth: himself, his life, his innocence, his pure heart, in place of your life, your guilt, your sin-stained heart. Without protest he did this all for you, so that He can proclaim to you the truth of who he is: the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One, the One who has come to be your Savior. He comes speaking this tender truth about who you are through faith in him: you are a freely forgiven, fully accepted, and completely loved child of God! This is the truth! This is the truth he proclaims to you. This is the truth you experience in him. This is the truth he commissions you to share with others too! Yes, all who believe in him will be infinitely and eternally! This is most certainly true! Amen.
Jesus exposes the lies that have entangled your heart because he wants to set you free with the truth. He is at the center of human history. The One made this world and everyone in it, is the One who took on human flesh, and suffered, at the hands of the very ones he created to save them from their own delusions. It’s human arrogance that believes we can live on our own terms even when doing so means going against what God says is good and right and loving.
That includes you and me!